Molesworth to Euroa via Caveat and Creightons Creek
Sunday April 24, 2016, 45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 1,288 miles (2,073 km)
I spent most of the week trying to figure out a plan for this weekend’s ride in the Strathbogies. I pondered routes, where to leave my car, where I might be able to camp, how to avoid truck traffic and how to avoid long weekend traffic, and where I could get water and food. For some reason, I just couldn’t get it to come together neatly. So I finally decided on a general plan by Friday evening. On Saturday, I headed south in the car and the plan fell apart immediately. But… the weekend was pretty perfect anyway. Go figure.
If you were to look at my route and where I left my car, and look at other possible routes and places to park, you might say, “Well, why didn’t you do… x or y or z?” And I would probably say, “I thought about that…” It just didn’t turn out that way this time.
So, anyway, Saturday afternoon, I headed down the Hume Highway to Violet Town, a teeny little place just off the road. My plan was to camp overnight at the caravan park and see if I could leave my car there. But… the place is an absolute dump, and they don’t take tent campers anymore. I didn’t really feel comfortable leaving my car in that town – and being so close to the freeway means thieves could steal the car and get a long ways quite quickly.
So, I thought about where else I might camp and leave the car. And that is how we ended up at Molesworth Recreation Reserve with about 300 people from Melbourne whom had escaped the city for a long weekend of camping. The place was seriously packed out, and the caretaker pointed me toward the only available free spots (basically in a ditch). He did, however, only charge me $10 (swag price) instead of $20 (car price) and told me it was no problem to leave my car for a couple nights.
We settled in to a very, very noisy and campfire smoky night. Luckily, the obnoxious group near me that was blaring Meatloaf and The Eagles well after midnight decided to play some doof-doof dance music about 1am. This was quite some time after the other noisy groups had given up by midnight or 12.30am (quiet hours started at 11pm). I thought surely someone would come over and complain about the dance music. And they did. “You’ve got to turn that shit off! We’ve been tolerating your Eagles for a long time now, but really, that is enough! Some people are trying to sleep!” Thank you, sir, whoever you were!
The fog is thick and clingy in the morning. The lingering campfire smoke hangs in the air on the droplets of moisture. My lungs are very raspy, but my enthusiasm is high. I can’t wait to get out of this overstuffed campground!
I pack up quickly in the dark. First light is hidden by the fog, and it remains dingy and dark well after the sun has hit the horizon. I move the car to the spot the caretaker told me to park it, and then head out on the bike. My hope is that the fog is just down in the valley and that we will climb out of it pretty quickly. I can use the rail trail to get me over the floodplain, and my time spent on the highway in the fog will be minimal. This plan works well.
A couple miles into the day and I’m turning onto the Caveat Road. The fog collects on my wool shirt in hairy lines of moisture. My raspy breath blends with the air in puffs of thicker cloud. We quickly get into the climb, riding up along road cuts that are 10-15 feet high. When we look down into the fog we can see the old oxbows of the river reflecting back the trees above. The climb weaves in and out with the edge of the hills, and I’m already in love with the ride.
It doesn’t take too long to get up and out of that fog, as the road winds ever upward. I keep stopping to take pictures. Every bend has a great new view to steep-sided hills, the foggy valley or distant ridges. This is pretty darn gorgeous for 7am.
The road climbs and climbs. The gravel is good and has little washboard or slippery stuff. It is narrow, but the forest is so silent, I figure I will hear a vehicle coming. The road weaves in and out of patches of forest and through clearings where cows graze and then moo in alarm when they spot me.
Further up, the creek valley we are following gets very narrow, and we can look down on the jumbles of granite boulders that comprise the stream. This part of the Strathbogies is a large batholith, so there are granite outcroppings, tors and rugged streambeds all over the place.
Essentially, a huge plume of magma pooled beneath the surface here and hardened as it cooled. Over time, that big pool of cooled magma has surfaced through erosion as a big plateau of granite. It is incredibly gorgeous. There is a climb like this from any direction to get up on the plateau, but it is incredibly scenic from just about any point you’d want to start from.
Up and up we go through the beautiful patches of forest and the cleared pasture. There is one small section of pine plantation, too. The road pitches up through here, but just being among the sun, cool temps and the remaining wisps of fog which rise from the cascading creeks takes away any pain. At one point, we are climbing next to the creek as it simply glides down a smooth, rounded granite bed. It is spread thin over the rock like cake frosting but glints like jewels. Life does not get much better than this.
I keep climbing, enjoying every second of the ride. My asthma is not so good today – so it is more effort than it would be on another day. But through the mucous and wheezy breathing, I’m still so happy to be alive and on this road today. I take some video of the ride – trying to hold the camera and balance on the gravel with one hand. We come up to a long piece of bark hanging down in the road… it brings back memories of my first time hiking through a forest like this. On that day, it was quite windy and the sound of the bark clacking against branches, trunks and other pieces of bark was a brand new sound in my (at the time) 22 years of life.
A bit further up, I set up the camera to get some video of me riding. I put together little videos for my parents, and they like to see some live action shots among the photos. As I’m setting up my camera, I see two guys on mountain bikes heading down. They stop to chat. They are very impressed that I’m riding up that road on a fully-loaded bike. They tell me the climb is almost over and are surprised when I reply, “Oh, that’s okay. I love climbing.” They give me some info about which roads to ride on the plateau and let me know that there is good coffee to be had at Ruffy. Then they head off and I head upward for a little bit longer.
Once up on the plateau, we just undulate along with long views to resistant granite tors and long ridges which are often covered in trees. Paddocks of long grass roll off into the distance. The roads are in pretty good condition today, there is little traffic, and the long views and gentle undulations are pure joy. It is sunny and warm enough to be comfortable, but it’s not so warm that sweat rolls or runs or does anything nasty like it does for so many months of the year over here. Today is just a perfect day on the bike.
Eventually, we start to roll down off the plateau. There are short climbs, but the general trend is down as we descend through the valley of Creightons Creek. A 5,000 hectare fire roared through here in late December 2014, and there is still much evidence of the fire. All along the road are blackened trees, bare soil and emerging weeds, and many branches and logs which have been swept off the road into piles after they fell. They only lost four houses in this fire, but I think I remember stock losses being pretty high. It is interesting to look at the fire scars and see how the topography influenced how the fire ran over the landscape.
Some miles later, the road flattens out as the valley widens. There are still huge granite boulders, tors and long ridges to our right. Finally, we round the ridge and find ourselves on a frontage road to the freeway. As I’m rolling up and over the freeway, the cyclist I waved to earlier comes up beside me. He thinks I’m going really well for the load – I tell him I’m pretty slow! We chat as we ride into town – he is 70 and is really bummed because he has developed a heart condition that tends to hit endurance athletes. He says he’s stayed in shape his whole life and never drank alcohol, so he feels really cheated that he now has a heart problem. He is under instructions not to do any climbing, so he is only able to do short out-and-backs from Euroa.
Once I get into town, I hit up the info centre for a ‘historical walk’ brochure. Euroa has a bunch of red brick buildings of historical importance, so I want to have a look around. Below is just a sample of the many historical buildings in town. If you are ever in the area, I very much recommend having a roll around town to look at the buildings and bridges.
After our history lesson for the day, we head back up to the main street and grab a burger, fries and milk from the takeaway shop. The fries (chips) are not very good – the burger is decent. There are two bakeries, an IGA and a few cafes here, so you may have better options than I did on a Sunday afternoon. If you do eat at the takeaway, don’t order any of the ‘specials’ – it is cheaper to order the items individually!!
The weather has been perfect today. Sun. Little wind. The temps are still way above average – which means it is pleasantly warm instead of cool. You could not ask for a more perfect day on the bike. I enjoy just sitting at the picnic table munching down calories on a perfect autumn day.
We than head over to the caravan park. If it is more than $20, I will go stealth it out at the showgrounds after dark (which is not long after 5.30pm these days). I never sleep as well in such a situation, but I am going to start protesting stupid prices for caravan parks. Luckily, the caretaker only wants $16, so that is fine with me. I get a spot on the creek, a shower and less stressful sleeping. The amenities block is clean. The kitchen kinda sucks, but I don’t need it anyway.
It was a short day without many miles, but I really enjoyed every bit of it. I will definitely have to come back and do more of the roads around here. I love the landscape and geology, and there is a great mix of challenging climbs and easy undulations. Tomorrow we start the day with a 600 metre climb, so good night!